“Radical” Monogamy

What the heck is Radical Monogamy? Is it a thing? SHOULD it be a thing? Citing a variety of articles, we discuss our personal thoughts, the polyamory discourse surrounding ace-allo relationships, and we reimagine polyamory as D&D spell slots. (Plus that one time Courtney was almost on Viceland)


Courtney: Hello, everyone. My name is Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce, and together we are the monogamously married Ace Couple. And today, we are going to be talking to you about this newfangled concept known as ‘Radical Monogamy’, or so I am told. I have not delved into this yet, but Royce has. And I am sure you are about to tell me all about it, so that we may discuss.

Royce: Well, much like the last couple of episodes we did in this format, where we talked about hard balling and a particular article called ‘Marriage Requires Amnesia’, I read through a few things before we sat down to record and then tried to tell you what I had figured out. And I had no idea what to expect going into this one.

Courtney: Yeah, the concept of radical monogamy just came to my attention because people were talking about this new article discussing radical monogamy on Twitter, and I thought, “Radical monogamy. What on Earth is that?”

Royce: It’s an odd term. And I find it to be a bit of an odd concept. It took me more reading and more thinking than I had thought I was going to need to be, to be ready for this.

Courtney: You went down the rabbit hole.

Royce: I did. One or two articles turned into about six or seven.

Courtney: Ooh, I can’t wait. This is gonna be good.

Royce: And so, where I started was an article on Vice called ‘Radical Monogamy’. I started reading a setup and a description for what it is and why it’s important. And as I was reading, I felt really out of touch.

Courtney: Oh no!

Royce: I felt like either I was completely disconnected with how society viewed relationships, or that I had found a bubble that I had never peered into before and I was seeing some section or aspect of culture that I was not very familiar with. And that’s why I was having to think extra hard of what the purpose of this article was, who it was being written for, what the intended audience is, and what the mindset of the intended audience was. Because it didn’t seem like I was having the mental reactions that the person writing the article was expecting.

Courtney: Okay. I’m really, really intrigued. It sounds like, there goes Royce acting old on the internet again. Or did you find more that this was perhaps an age difference, or after all of your research does it seem more like a little bubble, or maybe a little bit of both.

Royce: So in the opening few paragraphs of the article, the writer mentions an educator by the name of Robyn Ochs, who is a speaker and activist who edits Bi Women Quarterly, and appears to be one of the most prominent advocates for the idea of radical monogamy. And she says that her own journey towards embracing radical monogamy involved a lot of self scrutiny and questioning about the cis-het status quo.

Courtney: Which is healthy, I would say.

Royce: And to try to explain the concept she draws a line between radical monogamy and reflexive monogamy, where reflexive monogamy is blindly accepting that being in a monogamous relationship is just your place in society. That’s just how it’s supposed to be. That’s what you do, and that it’s also morally superior to do so than to have some other form of relationship.

Courtney: So that’s just typical societal standards. You’re just doing what you’ve seen modeled and what you think is correct. It’s amatonormativity at play, which we’ve also spoken about in past episodes.

Royce: Right. And the contrast to that is that radical monogamy is where you understand yourself enough to say that monogamy is what I need, and that’s what I am choosing.

Courtney: I understand the difference between the two. I think the latter is more healthy than the former, but I’m failing to understand what is radical about that.

Royce: And that’s what sparked the thought that I was missing something.

Courtney: Okay. [laughs] I understand. Yes. I also feel like I’m missing something.

Royce: So after reading a bit, it became clear that I was seeing a bubble that I was somewhat unfamiliar with. It appeared to be the gay or more broadly queer pro-polyamory community. There are some lines in this article that spoke of polyamory as if it was more widespread or more of an expectation that I understood at the time.

Courtney: Which in some communities, that is the case. As you pointed out, I do think polyamory is more present in queer communities than in straight ones. Or at least more open about it. But does that mean then that they are making the point that in these communities where polyamory is so widely celebrated, that there are people who are now kind of going in the opposite direction and going polyamorous by default, instead of monogamous by default?

Royce: There at least seem to be some communities that have an inherent rejection of monogamy. And that rejection seems to be tied with its association to heteronormativity.

Courtney: Mmm, I see. So I think that’s interesting because in general, I do think that once you have already embraced a queer identity and entered into a queer space, it is really natural to start second-guessing all of the other things that you know about love, sex, relationships, general societal norms. Because once you’ve broken free of the constraints of compulsory heterosexuality – or in the Ace community we talked about compulsory sexuality in general – it’s so much easier to take a step forward and say, “Well what else have I just internalized that isn’t even correct?” So I do think that it’s more common to see what many would consider to be unconventional relationship structures, which does include varying levels of polyamory. But it is news to me that there is a group of people who have just, like, outright rejected it as, “This is not for me because…” just because, not because they haven’t looked internally, but based on what they’re observing from broader society, you know.

Royce: Yeah, and I have a few more passages to try to read through because, as I was trying to form an understanding of this, I had to read what a few different people said and try to read between the lines. So in that same Vice article, they quote another author and speaker, named Jericho Vincent, who also uses the term radical monogamy for them. They– they say that this is [reading] “a progressive alternative to the old monogamy of our parents and grandparents that doesn’t really work today. The latter doesn’t work, they believe, because it is often predicated on heteronormativity and misogyny and very frequently breeds boredom, disloyalty and stagnation.” They go on to say that their depiction of radical monogamy, where you actually introspect a bit, you understand yourself, and then you make a choice based off of what type of relationship you actually need, may sound appealing because it acknowledges that the older, more societal-expectation form of monogamy can feel restrictive. [reading] “Especially if you are a queer person who views traditional hetero-normative systems with suspicion.”

Courtney: Mh-mmh.

Royce: But then adds that it also doesn’t mean that you have to completely abandon monogamy just because of those things. And my brain does not work like that. It never even occurred to me that someone would throw out a relationship structure due to its association with culture or societal expectations.

Courtney: Yeah, I– my brain also doesn’t work that way, but I definitely feel like I know people like this. I feel like I have had friends who have just sort of, you know, rejected all societal norms because they are all made up, which is true. And I– I try so hard not to get hung up on specific labels and vocabulary because I know how fluid vocabulary is, but man, the word radical is just so tripping me up here. Because I agree with everything they’re saying and I can see how they’ve got to this point, but why is it radical? I think radical and I think you’re really pushing the envelope, you’re moving the needle forward in instances of like radical feminism. Not– not trans exclusionary radical feminism. But in the sense of making your activism intersectional, in being unapologetic and minority identities. Like to me that is radical. This seems more like active monogamy.

Royce: Well, it’s–

Courtney: An active choice to be monogamous, instead of just passively doing it.

Royce: It’s literally just monogamy, but you’re being a self-aware person.

Courtney: It’s just monogamy. [laughs] Radical monogamy sounds like it’s just monogamy, but you thought long and hard and said, “Is this for me? Yep.”

Royce: So roll credits, we’ll talk to you guys later. No, actually the more interesting part of this actually did not end up being having anything to do with radical monogamy itself. It was the view into the divide between poly and monogamous culture, particularly in queer communities and how sometimes they can get very– what’s the word? Elitist? Pretentious?

Courtney: Oh yeah.

Royce: There can be some discussions around the style of relationship where a person really wants the kind of relationship that they engage in or believe they should engage in to be the superior, correct one. And other people just are missing something.

Courtney: Oh, and I’ve seen that before too. And let me make abundantly clear: polyamory is awesome. I want society as a whole to universally accept that it is an option. And that it is not a shameful thing and it is not in any way amoral, I think– or immoral even. I think it’s great, but I, personally, am a monogamous person. And I’ve had this theory in my head for a while – and I don’t see nearly enough people talking about monogamy and polyamory in this way – but in my head, I think about it in the same way I think about other orientations, gay, straight, asexual, aromantic, if you are doing a split attraction model, and you might say, you know, “I have a sexual orientation that is different from my romantic orientation.” I think your most comfortable, most natural relationship structure is also probably a spectrum of orientation.

Courtney: I think there are people who are just a little naturally wired to be monogamous, people who are a little naturally wired to be polyamorous. And there are probably a whole slew of people that are somewhere in between or a little bit fluid, and I think that’s great and we should talk about it in that way. And not look down on anyone for their chosen relationship structure, as long as everyone’s setting clear boundaries and communicating effectively. But I have 100% seen poly people who are adamant that if you are not polyamorous it is because you are jealous, and jealousy is an ugly emotion, and instead of protecting your jealousy you should work hard to unpack the jealousy and do away with it. And basically, you know, be better. If you were better, if you were more loving and free and open and less jealous, less envious, then you would be polyamorous too. And I just do not think that that is the case for everybody.

Royce: So the second article that I read was actually linked near the bottom of that ‘What is Radical Monogamy’ Vice article. It was another Vice article from late 2017, also hosted on Vice, by another author. The title was ‘Polyamory is more common than you think, but it’s not for everyone’. And in that article, there were a few interesting bits of information. One was a study, a rather small study, but the researchers went into it studying the sexual habits of a group of men, and they went into it with the idea that there would be a split; a group of very monogamous men and a group of very non-monogamous men. And what they found was 90% of the people they studied lied somewhere in the middle, and that there was a spectrum.

Courtney: Well! I said that, I said that! I should be a scientist or something.

Royce: And there were also a few– also a few other comic– There were also a few other comments because I have not studied the recent modern history of relationship trends and fluctuations in– inthereof. But one particular professor of psychology says that they have found some polyamorous, or group of polyamorous people, who are often very evangelical or dogmatic about their views. And that some members of their group tend to behave like activists and actively promote polyamory. And he jokes that it kind of feels like a religion, “because honestly, why do people preach anything? They think they’ve seen the truth and they want you to believe what they believe.”

Courtney: Sure. Yes, and I can see that comparison because there’s definitely a difference between putting yourself out as an example of a certain identity. You can definitely say, like, “Here I am. I am a polyamorous person. Here’s what my life and relationship looks like. And if this is the way you are, you should know that there are others out there and this is totally cool.” Because there definitely are people, especially younger people or people who are new to embracing a queer identity, who are still sort of unlearning the societal expectations. So representation is a good thing, but it does become different when the conversation goes like, “You should be this way. This way is better.”

Royce: And there’s also just some pseudo-scientific noise out there, like this article in particular mentions ‘Sex At Dawn’, which is published in 2010, and the authors of that book claim that polyamory is actually our evolved genetic predisposition.

Courtney: Ooh “evolved”... I’ve heard people use that word.

Royce: They based this off of anthropology, the study of other primates, and psychology. But from what I’m seeing, and from what the rest of this article says, a lot of it is just not reliable information.

Courtney: Yeah. I mean, it’s the same examples I’ve given but the people who do talk this way – and I hope I’ve made it clear enough this is not all polyamorous people – the ones who do speak in this specific way definitely make it seem like it is a more evolved way of being and existing and having relationships. And yeah, that can be bothersome as someone who is monogamous. But the thing is, by the definition they’re giving, if we were to use their terminology, we are radically monogamous because we have thought about what works and what doesn’t work from societal expectations for us. We aren’t just doing it because that’s what everybody does, but I don’t like that. I wouldn’t want to have a conversation with someone saying, you know, “polyamory is more evolved.” I wouldn’t want to come back at them and be like, “Well, I practice radical monogamy.”

Royce: Which by saying that you’re making a distinction, and saying that the monogamous relationships that you are in are somehow better than other monogamous relationships that haven’t gone through the same process.

Courtney: There’s, there’s just a light air of pretentiousness, I think, to it.

Royce: One other aspect of this article as it’s nearing its end – and what I saw as sort of the impetus for the radical monogamy phrase – is that because a lot of material and visibility was coming out in favor of polyamory, and there were these people evangelizing it, pushing it, saying that it was better, saying that jealousy is something to be understood and discarded and gotten over, there were people who were trying to do what they were told was the right thing and they would try to push themselves to be in open relationships…

Courtney: And they found it wasn’t working.

Royce: They found out it wasn’t working. But they would find out that it wasn’t working after having subjected themselves to a lot of emotional duress by being in what may have started as a monogamous relationship with someone and then getting into situations where they really shouldn’t be in, if they wanted to have a healthy relationship for what their needs were.

Courtney: Which is really unfortunate, first of all, but I can also see how that would happen. Because, this very specific group of people who do evangelize this lifestyle, I often see the same sort of talking points, and jealousy is a big, big, big part of that. And of course, a lot of them say, you know, everyone has jealous tendencies and there are ways to work on that and this is, you know, an ugly bad emotion. But I also see these conversations focused almost too heavily on the jealousy component, which to me often discredits the fact that there are other reasons why someone might want to be monogamous. And I think if you are in this very, like, small insular community, where you’re hearing the same things over and over, I could see wanting to better myself. And yes, is jealousy the only reason? Is it societal expectations that’s the only reason? I can see exploring that.

Courtney: But if you do explore it and find that that’s not the case, then, yeah, that can– that can be really unfortunate. And I do think there’s something to be said because, of course, there are still good, healthy, wonderful examples of polyamory that do have a component of jealousy, and within that community people share advice and support, and do try to find healthy ways to overcome that. But I still think at the end of the day, this has to be a relationship structure that you want and you are striving for, and it enriches your life, and all of the cons outweigh– all of the pros outweigh all of the cons. But if you put yourself in that situation and you’re just making yourself miserable, I guess I’ve never considered how many people that might affect, but I’m still not sold on the word “radical”.

Royce: I don’t think the phrase fits because I don’t think that it really has anything to do with monogamy. If you are also learning more about your own psychology and getting to know yourself better, and setting appropriate boundaries and you’re in a polyamorous relationship, does that now mean you’re now currently practicing radical polyamory?

Courtney: Well and– here’s why I don’t like it. And maybe this is just because I have always thought of polyamory as a spectrum that is just an added component of an orientation, but I immediately equate it to straight people. Because I believe– I believe that if more people had the freedom to explore themselves, there would be more queer people. I do think that there are probably plenty of people out there who consider themselves to be straight, which if they didn’t grow up in exactly the situation they did, maybe they’d be more on a bi or pan level, maybe they’d be on a more asexual level, but something that’s not straight. But the straight people do exist. And so are we going to also extend it and say that a straight person who has considered all their options, they’ve said, “Well could I be gay? No. Could I be Bi? No. Could I be Asexual? No, that doesn’t fit either.” Are we going to say that they are radically heterosexual?

Royce: Radical heterosexuality sounds dangerous.

Courtney: [laughs] Throw it out. Throw it out before it becomes a thing. Yeah, it’s huh, interesting. This– this whole thing is interesting to me.

Royce: So the rest of the reading I did when you originally brought this topic up, you mentioned that you heard of two things going around. One was the original Vice article, ‘What is radical monogamy’, and then there was a medium post by Sayde Scarlett, called ‘Radical monogamy. Just admit you only want or need one lover’, that was critical of the original Vice article.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Royce: And I read that and another post of Sayde’s and she makes some good points, but is also a bit aggressive.

Courtney: I was going to say that title sounds a little bit dismissive, maybe a little bit of petty.

Royce: It goes back to the line that we’ve mentioned we’ve seen drawn between monogamy and polyamory where things just get a little too tense. Like I think people need to be okay with other populations experiencing life differently than them.

Courtney: Yeah. As a general rule.

Royce: That was one thing that as I was reading more and more about this topic, things would trend in that uncomfortable direction. At the end of the Vice article, ‘Polyamory is more common than you think, but it’s not for everyone’, they actually end on the note that in a study of about 5,000 people on Match.com, only about 6% of people said that they actually practice polyamory. They were saying that it seems to them from what they are seeing polyamory is good for a certain subset of humanity, it is still very much a minority. And they ended on the notion that for people who are sort of being brought into polyamory when it isn’t actually good for them emotionally, or because it is sort of becoming a bit trendy or more visible because of the things that are being put out, that maybe some of them just haven’t really been in love yet.

Courtney: Oh… Oh. So well, now we’re going to get really, really complicated here. Because I do know for me, that my default state is monogamy. I am pretty easily, comfortably wired to having a romantic relationship with one person, because once I have established this romantic connection with someone – which, I do think that technically speaking, I do fall somewhere in the Aromantic spectrum, so I don’t think it’s very frequent that I established this general romance – but once I do, my brain, like, shuts off all desire or possibility for anyone else. And this is just my brain doing that.

Courtney: My brain did that before you and I even said, like, we are going to be in an exclusive relationship now. Once I knew that I was in love with you, my brain was like, “All right, done. Go get married. We’re good. We’re done.” And it’s not an active choice to shut things down, I just have no more desire elsewhere. But I have observed and known people who have been in a variety of relationship structures. And there is no right or wrong way to be poly. There are ways to have open relationships where they don’t necessarily consider themselves to be poly. None of them are right and wrong. But I’ve heard some allo people start to say things when they are in what is probably, based on the article, known as reflexive monogamy, just, “This is how you’re supposed to do it.” I’ve heard some people say, like, “Oh, you– you emotionally cheated on me.” Because, I think most people here “cheated on” in quotes, and they–

Royce: And they think physical.

Courtney: Sex, yes. And some people say, like, “Oh, well, you emotionally cheated on me.” And I see especially in TV and movies all the time where it’s like, “Oh, it was just sex. It was just physical. You didn’t feel anything.” And it’s like, “No baby. It meant nothing to me. It was purely physical.” And then it’s like, “Well then, all right. I guess we can get through this.” But then I’ll see some instances where it’s like sex did not happen, but someone saying, “You emotionally cheated on me because you started to develop romantic feelings for this person, even if you didn’t act on them in a sexual way.” And there was a long period of time where I thought, like, “Is rom– Man, like, is emotional cheating even a thing? Is romantic cheating a thing that is separate from sexual cheating?” And now I’m gonna be just baffled and talking in circles unless you cut me off because my brain also just doesn’t understand the concept of cheating. I’ve– I am destined to not understand it at all, but it’s almost people doing, like, a split model of cheating. Like, there’s sexual cheating and then there’s romantic cheating, and some people are inclined to put different weight on them. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the original point, but something you said made me think in that direction.

Royce: I think it just goes to show that if you want to have a healthy relationship, you need to understand yourself well enough to be able to establish clear, reliable boundaries. And then articulate those with a partner who agrees to them. Because it sounds like some of the instances that you mentioned may have been perfectly okay within certain aspects of an open relationship, had they had the discussion in the first place.

Courtney: Yes, and I mean, that’s the thing too. And here’s how I know I’m a radical monogamist and not a reflexive one. Because every time I see an example in media of someone cheating on someone, I’m like, “That’s so unnecessary that you just went behind their back and cheated on them when you could have just had a conversation about this, and maybe mutually agreed to open up the relationship in some facet.” And I mean, yeah, I know, easy for me to say. She, who is not polyamorous or polysexual. But yes anyway. What– What are people saying who are rebutting this?

Royce: Well, let’s start with the medium post that Sayde made on radical monogamy. Within that she also links to an older post that speaks more about polyamory, that is relevant to this discussion based on the discussion we’ve had in this podcast episode so far. I mentioned this was a bit aggressive. It starts with, “If you have brain cells to spare I recommend this nonsense article from Vice entitled ‘Radical Monogamy’.” And then goes on to say, “According to the article, the concept of radical monogamy doesn’t appear to have permeated the mainstream outside of Twitter arguments – that’s because it’s dumb.”

Courtney: Oh. Oh, okay. Yeah, little harsh, little holier-than-thou…

Royce: Then she mentions that with her medium career, she’s not normally a big writer. Her most successful post was the other one that I had pulled up here, that was “a secular rebuttal of polyamory,” which we’ll get to in a little bit. And from that she says that all of the correspondence she has personally received is that polyamory is not popular, particularly among women, and says, if you don’t believe her, “go read Reddit for 15 minutes.”

Courtney: I don’t like the gendered insinuation of it, “especially women”.

Royce: True. I agree, aside from the general absoluteness of it, I think that polyamory is the best relationship option for a certain subset of the human population. Like, there’s– there’s variance here. Sayde goes on to mention that while this was happening while she was speaking about polyamory, she was also writing erotic books for women who fantasize about finding “the one.” So she also just might have a particular audience. She goes on to critique some of the reasons for separating radical monogamy and reflexive monogamy, and says, “If you don’t want a heteronormative or misogynistic marriage, the solution isn’t to go live on a polyamorous commune, the solution is to not marry someone who is who is heteronormative or misogynistic.”

Courtney: Mmm. Yeah. Is that reading to you a bit like she thinks that polyamory is really just men who are womanizers?

Royce: I don’t think that’s the case. And I’m going to flip to the other article where she actually discusses her views on polyamory a little bit more.

Courtney: Okay.

Royce: I’m getting the two articles mixed up in my head a little bit. Apparently she really didn’t like this radical monogamy article because this entire post is – that’s coming off of it – is very aggressive. That– that post particularly ends with the, not all that dissimilar from what we said, that radical monogamy is just “old monogamy gussied up in new clothes.”

Courtney: Well, in that she’s not wrong.

Royce: In her earlier polyamory article she says that she doesn’t believe polyamory is an immoral or invalid choice, but that it is not a viable choice for most people, statistically speaking. And she says that, “Statistically speaking you – yes, you the person reading this article – are not good enough at romantic relationships to have more than one at a time.” And goes on to say that one thing that she has seen in her pool of contacts, and her pool of friends, is that sometimes in some instances people will– some people will be attracted to polyamory because they are potentially, subconsciously, unwilling to do the work to make sure that both them and their partners are in a healthy lifestyle and relationship.

Courtney: I mean, I would not be surprised if that’s the case, poly or not. I tend to just observe a lot of people who just don’t have a healthy relationship, in real life and in media. So I can’t exactly refute that point. I think discussions of polyamory are especially interesting in asexual spaces, because of the fact that so many Aces who do want a relationship feel like they have no chance at meeting a fellow ace person, and therefore people kind of preemptively start to worry about what would a relationship with an allosexual person look like. Especially the ones who veer on the sex-repulsed, sex-negative side of things, who do not want a sexual relationship. They start to concern themselves over “How could I make a mixed orientation relationship work?” And I feel like the easy quick obvious answer that I see thrown out in discussions all the time is like, well, polyamory, open relationship; establish your own rules, but basically let your allo partner have sex with other people and then decide what the romantic side looks like, and if you’re going to keep the romance exclusive between you two sort of a thing. And–

Royce: Not everyone’s built for that.

Courtney: That’s the thing. That’s the thing. I think it’s a good option to know that it is a valid option.

Royce: It’s definitely something to think about, to discuss.

Courtney: Yes. But I have seen those conversations veer in like, “Well, all your answers are solved. Just have an open relationship. Just be polyamorous, just don’t be jealous and let them have sex with other people.” And that– that won’t work for everybody.

Royce: To that point, that is a circumstance where someone could feel pressured to go into a type of relationship that is going to be mentally unhealthy for them.

Courtney: Oh, absolutely I could see that, of course. And of course just going down that line of thinking, it could just lead to so many additional issues if someone is being told that this is the best way to make their relationship work. And I am specifically thinking about the instance of an asexual person sort of begrudgingly having an open relationship with an allosexual person, but I think the vibe could be applied to different situations as well. I don’t like how if it is not working for that person, there’s so much room for them to turn inward and blame themselves. And especially in the Ace community, a lot of people already have some point in their life where they feel that they are broken because they aren’t experiencing sexual attraction in the way everyone else is. And then you have society telling you that in order to be a “good partner”, you need to sexually satisfy your partner.

Royce: Or let someone else.

Courtney: Or let someone else. And then, if you let someone else and for whatever reasons being your own it is just not working, you could– you could just blame yourself again and keep going down the rabbit hole of self-doubt, potentially even self-hatred. Just blaming yourself for being jealous or blaming yourself for being broken in this whole new way, “Why can’t I make this relationship structure work when other people can?” And at the end of the day, I think it does give a lot of room to see your Asexuality as the issue. And I never like to say that Asexuality is an issue because it is not. But I’ve seen it in media tropes. I’ve seen it in Reddit conversations, you know, I’m an Ace and I’m dating an allo, or even vice versa I’ve seen allo people come onto asexual forums and say, “Oh, you know, I’m dating an asexual person, but it’s really hard. What do we do?” And it kind of all just blames the Asexuality and that never feels good. Nobody wants to feel like the way they are designed, and the way they are wired is a problem. So, yeah, and I do wish there was more conversation around what a mixed orientation relationship looks like, with an ace spec person and an allo person. Because, of course, polyamory is a very valuable option for a lot of people but there isn’t a ton of conversation out there about alternative ways to try to navigate that.

Royce: So, if we go back to the original Vice article for a moment, I found a passage that I forgot to read earlier.

Courtney: Ooh, let’s hear it.

Royce: A sex columnist named Zachary Zane points out that monogamy needn’t feel stifling, adding that, “You don’t have to live with your partner and you don’t have to spend every waking moment with them. You can have other fulfilling relationships in your life. This one partner doesn’t need to fulfill all your needs even though you’re monogamous.”

Courtney: So you can have friends.

Royce: Yes. That was something that was also mentioned in Sayde Scarlett’s 2019 article saying that polyamory is a bad idea, probably for you, statistically. She also echoed the thought that you should have friends. You should know yourself. You should have things that you’re doing. You should have a healthier life structure that isn’t solely dependent on the one person in your relationship.

Courtney: Revolutionary! [laughs]

Royce: Right under that is actually the – in the original Vice article – is the line that clued me into maybe not being the target audience of this article, and it says that the person quoted here says that they hope radical monogamy will grow in popularity and believes that “we shouldn’t fall into the trap of presuming polyamory is the only enlightened and progressive relationship choice. There are more ways to approach relationships than just having a lot of partners.”

Courtney: Revolutionary. No, that, that is interesting because that definitely says that this is specifically speaking to queer poly audiences. Because the general population as a whole– I think a lot of people would look at that and say, like, “Do a lot of people think that?” I do understand the groups of people who might fall into that, but they are by no means mainstream. Like I still think we need more big visible, like, healthy representations of polyamory first.

Royce: Absolutely. I don’t– I can’t actually think of many examples of polyamory that take front, like, center stage in media. I know–

Courtney: Not a lot.

Royce: I know we love BoJack Horseman. Hollyhock has eight gay dads.

Courtney: Yeah, Hollyhock and her eight gay polyamorous dads! Um, I mean to varying degrees there were attempts at polyamory in Schitt’s Creek. There was a level of polyamory in Everything’s Going To Be Okay, which we talked about recently.

Royce: Would you consider an open relationship and polyamory to be different things? Because–

Courtney: I would, yeah.

Royce: Because if we’re thinking of the same thing, I believe that was just an open relationship.

Courtney: Yeah, it was lacking the amory. It was one of those situations of: we have an ace person in a relationship with an allo person and they decide will keep the love and the romance between the two of us, but the allo partner is going to have casual sex with other people. So that was not polyamory per se.

Royce: The distinction being that I believe it was a different man each time, even though, sometimes there were patterns where they would be named the same for a few times.

Courtney: It was like, “I will just have hot casual sex with a bunch of men.” And that was the arrangement.

Royce: Several of them who shared the first same name. I mentioned a survey of 5,000 Match.com members earlier, saying that 6% of respondents said that they practice polyamory. That same survey found that 68% of the people surveyed approved of it. So it does appear to be on more people’s radar, at least for young people, than I expected.

Courtney: Which is good. That’s good. This is all good stuff. Yeah, it’s just it is wild to me because this does read to me as someone who is so invested in their small insular community that they are specifically speaking to them. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s not bad at all. But as a Vice article, I expect a Vice article to reach a lot of people and–

Royce: Now that you say that, I did too, but I have absolutely no idea how Vice columnists actually work.

Courtney: I don’t–

Royce: How visible some of these articles actually are.

Courtney: Oh my gosh. Do you remember when I was almost on Viceland? You were with me in New York when they invited me to that. [laughs] It’s kind of a fun story.

Royce: Yeah, I vaguely remember, I don’t remember what went down and why it didn’t happen, and who it was involving.

Courtney: Oh that was– So that was wild. So, all right, for the folks at home. Here is how Courtney was almost on Viceland making art out of the beard of a, quote, “famous rapper.” So I had an art show in New York, and this was one of the rare instances when Royce actually came with me. Usually I travel alone for work, but I needed a little extra help hauling suitcases this time and manning my station. And this, you know, this man came up, he starts looking at my artwork. And he’s really interested in it. And I explained to him that I make all of this out of human hair, and I start to talk to him a little bit because he had a lot of questions. A lot of people do when they see my art and have never heard of Hair Art before. And so, I start telling him a little bit about the history behind it. And he goes, “Cool. Cool.” And he’s like, “Could I, could I record you saying that? If I pull out my phone, would you say that on camera?” I was like, “Sure, why not?”

Courtney: So he pulls out his phone, and says, like, “Okay, say that again.” And I start going on my spiel about the history of this art form and why it’s sentimental and why it’s meaningful, and why I make things out of hair. And, and he cuts the camera and he’s, like, “Awesome. Awesome. That’s really, really great. So, by the way, I’m a producer at Viceland and tell me, can you do this with beard hair?” And I was, like, “Well, yeah, I can do this with beard hair.” And he’s– and I was like, “Depending on how long it is, I might be restricted as to which techniques I can do, because some of these techniques require really long hair, but some people have long beards.” And he was like, “So say if– if we were to get you a lock of hair from the beard of a famous rapper, could you make us some hair flowers on camera for a show on Viceland?” I was like, “Oh yeah, I guess I could do that.” He’s, like, “Excellent. I’m going to show this video to, you know, the writing team and we’ll e-mail you tomorrow to get something scheduled.” And I’ll be damned if he didn’t email me the next day to get something scheduled.

Courtney: And yeah, they basically wanted to give me some of Action Bronson’s beard to weave hair flowers out of on camera and they were like, “Here’s the show.” It was a show I hadn’t heard of before, but I was familiar with Viceland as a network. And they were like, “Yes, bring your husband and two other friends.” And I was like, “Two other friends? Why?” And they’re, “Just, we have more chairs. We want more people in this room. And like, bring, bring four people total including yourself.” And I was like, “Oh, okay…” So then I started asking a couple of my friends and I was like, “Hey! Do you want to come to New York with us next weekend? We’re in New York right now, but we’re about to get on a plane back home and they want us back in New York again next weekend.” And all my friends were like, “Yeah. Sure… maybe? What is happening?” And yeah, it was– it was really, really devastating because, like, as we’re getting all these arrangements and trying to, you know, get our new plane tickets and make our schedule and everything, the network actually canceled that show. And it was just a hard cutoff cancel. They– I think they wanted me to be on like the very first episode of the next season and they just hard cut it. So I was like, “Oh well, sorry friends who were going to come with me to make hair flowers out of Action Bronson’s beard. That’s not gonna happen this time.” That was quite a thing.

Courtney: So, how did we get here? Oh, this article was on Vice. That’s my story about Vice everyone. I hope you enjoyed it. Tune in next week when we talk about how Courtney was almost the subject of a Super Bowl commercial once. If enough of you tweet at me asking for that story, I will tell it. But anyway, I guess, in this podcast that is supposed to be about radical monogamy, let’s end on some monogamy thoughts. I mean Royce, you and I have joked – joking, this is our at-home joke! – that it is easy to be monogamous when you are Asexual and hate people. It’s just a little joke, but I mean, you’ve said things before where it’s like polyamory sounds exhausting or general non-monogamy sounds exhausting.

Royce: Oh absolutely. I can handle like one and a half people full-time max.

Courtney: [laughs] Who’s the half? How do you get half a person?

Royce: I mean like someone who I’m around a lot, as in a relationship, and then a good friend who’s there regularly enough–

Courtney: Okay.

Royce: –kind of thing. Or maybe, like if I’m single, two good friends that I see often enough but otherwise I need alone time in my schedule.

Courtney: So you can have two people regularly in your life.

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: One of which is allowed to be romantic.

Royce: Yeah. Otherwise, I just don’t have the energy to keep up with people. So most of my other friendships are like, if I’m not just in a place regularly where I happen to be around people I’ll talk to someone once a year, maybe.

Courtney: All of our friends listening to this are going to be like dang, which one of us is the second friend. [laughs] Royce, you’re breaking hearts over here. So many people like you!

Royce: That’s actually been an issue.

Courtney: [burst out laughing]

Royce: So I – A few years before you– we met, I had a very close friend up here in the Kansas City area. We had like– we had met on a date, like we went out to have dinner after talking to each other briefly on a dating site and very quickly realized, “Oh, nothing’s going to happen.” But we still stayed in contact and got really close friends over time. She was my anime-watching buddy, and we just like, she’d come over and we, you know, vent about relationships or whatever. And I helped her move one time and met her new boyfriend. And for some reason, like, she told me afterwards, like, she was laughing, she was like, “My new boyfriend really wants to be friends with you, but you probably don’t want to be friends with him.”

Courtney: You were like nope. [laughs] That’s so interesting. Was there anything about that guy that told you, “I don’t want to be this guy’s friend?” Or were you just like, “My friend quota is full right now.”

Royce: It was that. He was fine. I mean, I didn’t get to know him very much. He was a little, I think, nervous just because.

Courtney: Because you’re so cool. He didn’t want to say something silly in front of you.

Royce: I think it was more that, like, I had known his new girlfriend longer than him, kind of thing. He’s a little excitable, a little high energy. I never know what to do with that. But no, it was mostly the friend quota achieved here, I need to go home.

Courtney: Who is your second friend? You said you’re allowed two friends.

Royce: I don’t need to have two active friends, though. That’s just the max.

Courtney: Gotcha, gotcha. Which is so interesting because, I mean, not in the last two years, but several years ago, we would regularly have, like, little board game nights, and little parties and have multiple people over all of whom I’m sure were our friends.

Royce: There is a difference between having a person that you’re having fairly consistent contact with on a day to day, or several times a week basis, and having one evening of heavy social activity.

Courtney: Okay.

Royce: Because we would have a game night, and then I wouldn’t talk to hardly anyone who I didn’t work with, or wasn’t you, for, like, a week and a half or two weeks or something.

Courtney: Until the next game night.

Royce: Right.

Courtney: Gotcha. I see. Now, here’s actually something, this just reminded me of a random tweet that I saw. I don’t think it was even by a large account or anything, but someone recently was talking about, you know, being really in love with their spouse and saying that they had extreme social anxiety. But they love their spouse so much and are so comfortable with them, that their social anxiety does not even register their spouse as a person. And I thought that was really funny. Because I think I would absolutely just be driven wild if I had really high levels of interaction with anyone who is not you, and I am nowhere near where you are on the introvert scale. I have– I have much more spell slots for friends and close relationships. Casual D&D joke.

Royce: So are you saying that my life character is a non-magical class that multi-classed, like, one level in social skill points?

Courtney: Okay. Listen, I have absolutely thought about romantic relationships in terms of D&D

Royce: I have two first level friendship spell slots from multi-classing, and that’s it.

Courtney: Well, so I was having a conversation with a very, very dear friend, several months ago. And when I say that my brain is so heavily wired toward monogamy, and when I also say that I am somewhere in the demiromantic sphere, I do not think I need my monogamous partnership to be romantic in nature. And before I had the vocabulary to describe what I was feeling, and what this relationship sort of was shaping up to be what I felt I wanted it to be – I would now describe it as a queerplatonic relationship. Which– once I entered into that, which at the time I didn’t have that word, so it was like, “This is my really good friend. This is my friend who is basically family.” That was around the period of time where I was like, “I don’t need to date anymore.” Like I don’t want to date. I don’t want to see other people and I kind of just shut that part of my brain off. But my relationship with her was not what I would describe to be romantic, but I think in a different, you know, time and place I could have been monogamously happy with a situation like that.

Courtney: Now, as it turns out she is poly. And lo and behold, if you listened to our asexual love story, you know, I had a friend who was like, “Let’s just get you on OkCupid. Let’s just, let’s just get you online and meet more people.” Hello. Hey, hi. That was she. So, when I met you, there was an added level of romance that was different and rare for me. And so in my mind, I was like maybe that is where my potential slight bleeding into some level of polyamory lies, but I think I only have one spell slot for romantic partnership. I might have a second little spell slot for a queerplatonic situation, but they are– because of the added level of romance that you and I have, there is something that’s definitively different. So I was like, you’re kind of like my cantrip. Like I’m just casting you at will 24/7, because we live together and we actually spend a lot of our free time together as well. But then I’ve got like one spell slot for like, much more infrequently, but very big and powerful, but like, then I’ve got to rely on my cantrips for a while before I recharge. It’s an imperfect metaphor, listen.

Royce: Going back to the comment you made earlier about someone whose anxiety doesn’t manifest around their partner because they don’t see them…

Courtney: As a person.

Royce: …as a person. That reminds me of some things that I’ve been thinking about the way that anxiety manifests for me, and I’ve been trying to pay more attention to masking behaviors, presently and historically. And I wonder if that’s part of it.

Courtney: Hmm,

Royce: Where, if I get comfortable enough where I’m not thinking about what I’m doing and how I’m presenting all the time, a lot of that stress or anxiety goes down.

Courtney: Yes, masking is exhausting. But if you find someone that you can really well and truly just be comfortable and yourself around all the time, a lot of that does go away. So yeah, cantrips! [laughs] We’re gonna have some listeners out there who don’t know anything about D&D, who are going to be a little bit lost. But–

Royce: That’s okay.

Courtney: My advice to those people is maybe just try playing D&D sometime. Well, on that note, I think that is probably about all there is for today. So if you made it this far, thank you so much for being here. Give us a like, comment, subscribe if you’re listening on YouTube. If you’re on a podcast– podcast, podcast platform. And get us a whatever those have, ratings, reviews? Does Spotify have reviews? Spotify has just follow. You can follow people on Spotify, right?

Royce: I really don’t listen to podcasts…

Courtney: Oh… we are the worst podcast hosts. Do whatever the things are for whatever platform you’re listening to us on, all right? And if you’re one of those people who are just downloading directly from our website, and or reading the transcripts off of our website, tweet at us and say, “Hey, I liked the episode.” It makes us smile. So do all those things in the meantime, and we’ll see you guys all next time.